Man of Steel

Little Green Man’s Burden

The stupidity and loudness and lack of ethics of the climax overshadowed how straight up terrible the first two hours are. Let's relive them!
Reported on 23rd of September, 2017

(Editor’s Note – As I write new stuff, I find myself referring to this filmic monstrosity often, which seems to have everything you don’t want. The worst film of 2012, and maybe one of the worst of all time, it merits some study. Fine. Some well-worded complaining. It doesn’t deserve the attention, but no one reads this, so who’s the winner there? )

Reading the extensive notes for Man of Steel, the worst film in a great year of films, I realized I had forgotten the following exchange (and yes, my talking to the screen counts as an exchange):

Mr. Russell Crowe
I will find him.
Mr. Russell Crowe
I will find him.
Mr. Russell Crowe
I will find him., Lara!
Me (Offscreen, literally)
Um, will you find him?
Beat for comical effect.
Mr. Russell Crowe
I will find him!


It was pretty good, Man of Steel, that a character would actually say a bland and unsubtle line three times, hence my stepping in with the subpar MST3K derivative ‘Um, will you find him?’ But nothing can express my astonishment at your replying to that, making it a head scratching four times.

Man of Steel

27 June 2013 @ The BFI London IMAX

-$47.00 or, if one must be quotidian, and one must... 
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

§  §  §


The moderately justified complaints re: Man of Steel concentrate on the ending. Even violence fans were a bit turned off when an entire city is destroyed while our two baddies, or two goodies or whatever they were, punch each other with the fist of the Statue of Liberty and then one pounds the other with jackhammer made with a subway car inserted into the Chrysler building.

And no, Mr. Abrams, you may not steal that.

We remember the hell out of ending, so much that since the sequel referred to how abandoned their landscapes were. Only a mere chin-rubbing three times, but still.

But the stupidity and loudness and lack of ethics of the climax overshadowed how straight up terrible the first two hours are. De facto forgettable, everything before the finish is filled with gems like ‘I will find him’4, and ‘I’m a Pulitzer Prize winning writer’, and ‘The symbol of Kal-El means “hope”‘.

The first part also contained additional nonsense about overpopulation. At this point, the compulsion with having kids to solve overpopulation (see What Happened to Monday, or my soon to exist take on What Happened to Monday) seems designed to at first annoy, then baffle, then tickle me with its lack of sense. Though nowhere near the level of hysteria reached WHTM, Man of Steel does include the line ‘Artificial population control was established, and we depleted our natural resources’. I understand this math perfectly. They took away all my money, so I could pay for even more movies like this.

You may have additionally forgotten the scene, for example, where Mr. Kevin Costner sacrifices himself to protect his son’s secret. I remember because in so doing he killed the doggie as well, who didn’t do nothing to nobody. This is because he, so the thinking goes, must protect his indestructible child!

Just an aside here, but how often do dogs do anything in films? Either they exist to be killed, or create tension that they might not be (incidentally, there’s a cute flying doggie creature in the beginning, also killed). Does this kind of sympathy even work? If you’re going to kill a bunch of people shooting an Prius out of a zipgun made from a torn open gas tanker (that’s mine too, Abrams), it’s not like you really care about people either.

Interestingly (for me. For me), this was the film that caused me to erroneously write to the UK ombudsman that it was falsely advertised as IMAX. Being an idiot, and apparently not knowing that the internet existed, I forgot to check that in fact, Man of Steel was not filmed in 15 perf. However, the complaint made it to the IMAX reps in the UK, and four years later, they now actually specify as they did in the ads for Dunkirk. If you do things well, nothing changes. If you do things badly, well, you’re welcome world.

Did you also forget the extremely talky destruction of suburbia, where our villain spouts such proto-Nietzschean goodness as ‘Our lack of morality gave us an evolutionary advantage (smash Target). And if History has taught us anything (smash through I-Hop), it’s that evolution always wins. I’m not sure exactly how evolution would “win” anything. What was it competing with? It’s just a description of a process (Knock Superman out, then inexplicably walk away for the eighth time)’.

This supermenchiness is the theme of the ending, and so, for a change of pace, I’m going to finish there. The fatuous streak of Save Me Whitey Save Me runs through so many superhero films, but it is especially evident here. The two characters represent bad superpower (enslave!) good superpower (also enslave, but you’re free…to buy my merchandise!).

Now we have seen the various iterations of this since and before Kipling, but this seems a pigeon-eye view of the American empire as staggers over the gutter to spew. Poor America, the film seems to say, having to take care of all those poor weak undermenches.

Ultimately, we’re watching a movie. Whatever tragically unread papers there are to be written about masculinity and imperialism (and this is one of them) this perspective is not especially compelling, narrative-wise. Besides the obvious lack of rules, we root for the underdog, because we are the underdog. The film isn’t asking us to relate to what it’s like to be American, but to be America.

With over the top powers even for a comic book character, Superman is not an especially connectable character. That is, unless, like the original comic/film, you give him almost a kind of naif-like morality. This is not the case in Man of Steel, whose Superman is not much endowed with superpowers as he is with the ethics of an especially corrupt one.

The ethos of our gasping empire is not especially compelling one: the murder of one adorable family is a tragedy, the murder of millions ‑ a roller coaster ride of thrills!

Seemingly restrained by Executive Order 12333, Mr. Henry Cavill refuses, after many opportunities, to kill our baddie Mr. Michael Shannon. Why EO 12333 (prohibiting assassination of world leaders, and yes I had to look it up)? Well, I just interrupted the flow of thought. It’s like the experience of the film. The only way to figure out what the hell the characters are thinking is to duckduckgo it afterwards.

Stop using google. And now I’ve added another interruption. See?

In the end, naturally, Mr. Cavill obliges the 150 minute running length and snaps Mr. Shannon’s neck. Which, I guess is how you kill kryptonians who can’t be killed by picking up two medium sized cities and smashing them together like a Stephen King battery powered monkey toy.

Anyway, Mr. Cavill seems to be willing to allow Mr. Shannon to kill millions, but when he threatens a family – a family – it’s neck snappin’ time! Then, and I bet you don’t remember this, he cries. The ethos of our gasping empire is not especially compelling one: the murder of one adorable family is a tragedy, the murder of millions – a roller coaster ride of thrills!

The Take

Other gems: “This is madness. Under whose authority? Mine!” That’s the actual exchange. I love it when they leave parts out and forget to check.
The fact that we’ve come full circle and the baby factory from The Matrix is now a good thing.
I have no idea why I’m counting this a plus, but it’s just that stupid. Remember the actual final shot? It’s when young Clark Kent icongraphically puts on a red sheet like he’s wearing a cape and the movie goes all sepia-y. Fine, but who exactly is he emulating except for…superman? Which would be weird enough, but then why is he worried about being accepted…as a future him that doesn’t exist? Was he worried about the Terminator making fun of him? It’s something else.
Total Profits
It’s a despicable film, poorly made, one that seems to hate humanity almost as much as it hates doggies almost as much as it hates its audience. Fuck all y’all.
Total Losses


The Lonely Comments Section


Annoyed? Prove it!

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.